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Without preaching predestination we cannot enjoy a lively sight and experience of God’s special love and mercy towards us

Chapter V

SHOWING THAT THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF PREDESTINATION SHOULD BE OPENLY
PREACHED AND INSISTED ON, AND FOR WHAT REASONS.

UPON the whole, it is evident that the doctrine of God’s eternal and unchangeable predestination should neither be wholly suppressed and laid aside, nor yet be confined to the disquisition of the learned and speculative only; but likewise should be publicly taught from the pulpit and the press, that even the meanest of the people may not be ignorant of a truth which reflects such glory on God, and is the very foundation of happiness to man. Let it, however, be preached with judgment and discretion, 1:e., delivered by the preacher as it is delivered in Scripture, and no otherwise. By which means, it can neither be abused to licentiousness nor misapprehended to despair, but will eminently conduce to the knowledge, establishment, improvement and comfort of them that hear. That predestination ought to be preached, I thus prove:-

V.-Without the doctrine of predestination we cannot enjoy a lively sight and experience of God’s special love and mercy towards us in Christ Jesus. Blessings, not peculiar, but conferred indiscriminately on every man, without distinction or exception, would neither be a proof of peculiar love in the donor nor calculated to excite peculiar wonder and gratitude in the receiver. For instance, rain from heaven, though an invaluable benefit, is not considered as an argument of God’s special favour to some individuals above others: and why? because it falls on all alike, as much on the rude wilderness and the barren rock as on the cultivated garden and the fruitful field. But the blessing of election, somewhat like the Sibylline books, rises in value, proportionably to the fewness of its objects. So that, when we recollect that in the view of God (to whom all things are at once present) the whole mass of mankind was considered as justly liable to condemnation on account of original and actual iniquity, His selecting some individuals from among the rest and graciously setting them apart in Christ for salvation both from sin and punishment, were such acts of sovereign goodness as exhibit the exceeding greatness and the entire freeness of His love in the most awful, amiable and humbling light.

In order, then, that the special grace of God may shine, predestination must be preached, even the eternal and immutable predestination of His people to faith and everlasting life. “From those who are left under the power of guilt,” says Augustine, “the person who is delivered from it may learn what he too must have suffered had not grace stepped in to his relief. And if it was that grace that interposed, it could not be the reward of man’s merit, but the free gift of God’s gratuitous goodness. Some, however, call it unjust for one to be delivered while another, though no more guilty than the former, is condemned; if it be just to punish one, it would be but justice to punish both. I grant that both might have been justly punished. Let us therefore give thanks unto God our Saviour for not inflicting that vengeance on us, which, from the condemnation of our fellow-sinners, we may conclude to have been our desert, no less than theirs. Had they as well as we been ransomed from their captivity, we could have framed but little conception of the penal wrath due, in strictness of justice, to sin; and, on the other hand, had none of the fallen race been ransomed and set at liberty, how could Divine grace have displayed the riches of its liberality?”* The same evangelical father delivers himself elsewhere to the same effect. “Hence,” says he, “appears the greatness of that grace by which so many are freed from condemnation, and they may form some idea of the misery, due to themselves, from the dreadfulness of the punishment that awaits the rest. Whence those who rejoice are taught to rejoice not in their own merits (quae paria esse vident damnatis, for they see that they have no more merit than the damned), but in the Lord.”+

* Epist. 105, ad Sixt. Presb.

+ De Predest. Sanctor, lib. 1, cap. 9.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

Question 73-Puritan Catechism

Spurgeon 6Q. How is the Word to be read and heard that it may become effectual to salvation?

A. That the Word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend to it with diligence, (Proverbs 8:34) preparation, (1 Peter 2:1,2) and prayer, (Psalm 119:18) receive it with faith, (Hebrews 4:2) and love, (2 Thessalonians 2:10) lay it up into our hearts, (Psalm 119:11) and practice it in our lives. (James 1:25)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism

Chapter 23-The Effects of the Sin of Adam

The Effects of the Sin of Adam

THE immediate effects of Adam’s sin, as indicated in the narrative in Genesis, were (1) shame, or fear of God’s presence, and (2) making excuse for his sin and casting the blame upon the woman and his maker. Gen. 3:7-13.

The immediate curse uttered against the woman was (1) danger to her and her seed from the serpent and his seed, (2) multiplied pain and sorrow in childbirth, and (3) a condition of subservience to her husband. Gen. 3:15-16.

That against the man was (1) that thorns and thistles should hinder the cultivation of the ground, (2) that by hard labour in the sweat of his face should he eat his bread, and (3) a positive declaration of the return of the man to the dust whence he had been taken. Gen. 3:17-19.

The evils thus threatened have not been confined to Adam and Eve, but have fallen also upon all their posterity. Whatever may be the connection between Adam and that posterity, it is generally admitted that the latter share with him all these evils.

In seeking then into the effects of Adam’s sin we shall find them in connection with the evil condition of his posterity, as well as of himself.

The curses uttered in the garden are not to be taken as exhaustive of the curse threatened. They are such only as were immediately suggested by the peculiar attendant circumstances of Adam’s sin, and are to be regarded merely as examples of its evil effects. Still even they have not been confined to Adam, but have come equally upon the race at large.

All the evil effects of Adam’s sin are comprised under the one word “death.” This was the threatened penalty. But what is meant by it?

 

I. Natural death is included. By this is meant the separation of the soul and the body, and the consequent decay of the body.

1. It has been objected that this is not a result of Adam’s sin because the very nature of the body (dust) made it necessary that it should return to dust.

To this it may be replied:

(1.) That it is not certain that there were in man’s body before his sin any elements of decay which would naturally lead to separation from the soul and to corruption.

(2.) But even if we admit that the body is naturally mortal and liable to corruption, it does not follow that had man not sinned, he would have died. God might have continued forever to preserve his powers unimpaired, either by direct preservation or by some remedial means. Some think, not without reason that this would have been done through the tree of life.

(3.) The objection overlooks the fact that, from the nature of God’s foreknowledge and purpose, things in themselves natural are made the punishments of others with which they are associated. In like manner also is it with his blessings. The whole narrative of the fall is full of examples of this principle. Of this kind is the serpent’s curse, “upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life,” Gen. 3:14; of this also that connected with the natural injuries which men and serpents would inflict on each other, Gen. 3:15; that of the rule of the husband over the wife, Gen. 3:17; and that of the thorns and thistles in the ground and the sweat and the labour for the means of life, Gen. 3:18, 19.

2. A second objection against regarding natural death as part of the penalty is that the threatened penalty was a death which should occur on the very day the fruit should be eaten.

(1.) This might be an objection if it were claimed that the penalty of natural death was the only penalty, or if it could be shown that the death thus threatened was so exclusive as to forbid that natural death should be in any way associated with it.

(2.) It is even doubtful whether the corrupt tendency to death and its beginnings may not be ascribed to the very hour of Adam’s sin. If that sin removed all hope of God’s counteracting the natural mortality, this would be so; whether it was to be counteracted, as Lange quotes Knobel as supposing [Comm. on Genesis, p. 239], “through the tree of life,” or by some other means. It would also be true if; as Lange thinks, the threatened penalty, “death, here corresponding to the biblical conception of death, must be taken primarily to mean moral death, which goes out of the soul or heart, and, through the soul-life, gradually fastens itself upon the physical organism.” Comm. on Gen., p.207. Under such circumstances the moral death would be the eventual cause of the physical death, and to the latter would be assigned the same time of beginning with the former. This might also be done, even if the gradual decay were a mere accompaniment of the moral death without being actually caused by it.

In favour of the idea that natural death is included in the penalty, there is:

1. The probability that while spiritual death does come upon man, the outward event, the name of which is used to express this evil result in the soul, would itself also constitute a part of that which is indicated by its name.

Hence it is that to one who does not carefully study the Scripture statements, the most obvious idea is that the death threatened was chiefly natural death.

2. This probability is rendered certain by the specific curse uttered in the garden after the transgression:

“Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Gen. 3:19.

3. It is confirmed by other passages of Scripture. Lange, Gen., p.239, thinks that the teaching of the 90th Psalm is undoubtedly that death belongs solely to the punishment of sin. But whether so, or not, it is unquestionably the teaching of Romans 5:12-14; also of 1 Cor. 15:21, 22, 55, 56. [See some valuable remarks on this point in Edwards’ Works, vol. 2, p.373.]

 

II. Spiritual death was also an effect of Adam a sin. Our inquiry into natural death as a penalty leads us to look for some other and higher evil as resulting from sin. It must be something which occurred at the very time of eating, which affected that part of man that was naturally immortal, and which was also connected with that part with which conscious personality is inseparably associated.

1. It must therefore be the death of the soul.

The Scriptures present this in several aspects, showing it in each case not only by statements of what it is, but by contrasting it with the life of the soul. It is presented as (1) Alienation from God. (2) Loss of God’s favour. (3) Loss of acceptance with him.

It is contrasted with life in many passages, as Lev. 18:5; Deut. 8:3; 30:15-19; Ps. 119:17, 77, 116; Matt. 4:4; John 5:24.

That this death has come upon mankind is evident from the fact that the Scriptures speak of man in his fallen state as being “without God in the world,” Eph. 2:12; as “alienated from the life of God,” Eph. 4:18. It says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rom. 3:23. Also that “the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth,” Ps. 11:5. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men,” Rom. 1:18. It is not only said that “he that believeth not hath been judged already,” but that “the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:18, 36.

It is also evident from the work of Christ, which was to reconcile man to God, and to propitiate his good will. Hence Christ speaks of himself as giving living water. We are said to live in Christ.

2. This spiritual death was not only the death of the soul,–as seen in the various aspects of alienation, loss of God’s favour and of acceptance with him, referred to above,–but it also consisted in a corrupt nature. The Scripture statements as to this corruption show:

(1.) Its universal extent. It is found in every man. “There is no man that sinneth not,” 1 Kings 8:46. “There is none that doeth good,” Ps. 14:1; and this is emphasized in v.3 by adding “no, not one.” See also Rom. 3:10 and the argument of the context. Also Ps. 53:1-3; 130:3; Prov. 20:9; Ecc. 7:20; Isa. 53:6; 64:6; Rom. 3:23; 5:12, 14; Gal. 3:22; 1 John 1:8-10; 5:19.

To the above passages might be added arguments for the universal existence of sin from the declared necessity of regeneration in each man; from the direction to preach the gospel to every creature; and the assertion that there is no salvation for any man except in the name of Christ.

(2.) Its early appearance in man’s life is another proof that corruption is the effect of Adam’s sin. Certain passages of Scripture are supposed to refer to young children as though innocent of guilt. These are such as Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; and Luke 18:15-17, “Of such is the kingdom of God.” Also Matt. 18:3: “Except ye turn and become as little children.” Also 1 Cor. 14:20: “Be not children in mind: howbeit in malice be ye babes, but in mind be men.” [See Gill’s Body of Divinity, I., 474.]

But these passages do not teach freedom from corruption. On the other hand, corruption in early infancy is plainly taught. “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies,” Ps. 58:3. “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” Ps. 51:5. “Foolishness (wickedness) is bound up in the heart of a child,” Prov. 22:15.

(3.) The fact of this corruption. Before the flood it is said: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” Gen. 6:5. “Every one of them is gone back; they are altogether become filthy,” Ps. 53:3; see also Ecc. 8:11; Matt. 15:19; Rom. 1st chapter at length, as to the heathen, in connection with Paul’s question, Rom. 3:9. Similar descriptions appear in Isa. 59:3-14; in Gal. 5:19-21; Titus 3:3; 2 Pet. 2:13-18.

(4.) This corruption extends to every affection of the heart and mind. Mr. Goodwin, in the Lime Street Lectures, p. 128, says: “The soul is corrupted with all its faculties; the mind with darkness and ignorance, Eph. 5:3; being subject to the sensitive part, and strongly prejudiced against the things of God, 1 Cor. 4:24; the conscience with stupidity and insensibleness, Titus 1:15; the will with stubbornness and rebellion, Rom. 8:7; the affections are become carnal and placed either upon unlawful objects, or upon lawful in an unlawful manner or degree, Col. 3:2; the thoughts and imaginations are full of pride, and vanity, and disorder, Gen. 6:5. And as for the body, that is become a clog, instead of being serviceable to the soul, and all its members and senses instruments of unrighteousness to sin, Rom. 7:19. It is, I say, in general a universal depravation of every part in man since the fall; and more particularly it consists in a privation of all good, in an enmity to God and the things of God, and in a propensity to all evil.” See also Hodge, vol. 2, p. 255, and Gill’s Divinity, vol. 1, p. 474. [Better proof texts than those referred to in the above quotation are Eph. 4:18 and Rom. 1:21 instead of Eph. 5:3; and Rom. 6:12; 7:24 and 8:5-7 instead of 1 Cor. 4:24.]

(5.) This corruption has not been equally developed in all. The doctrine of total depravity does not mean such equal development. The Scriptures recognize degrees of wickedness as well as of hardening of the heart, and even blinding of the minds of some. But they also represent that the lack of this development is due to differing circumstances and restraints by which some men are providentially surrounded.

(6.) This corruption does not destroy accountability or responsibility for present sins.

(a) The Scriptures universally recognize man’s liability to punishment for all the thoughts of his mind, and the desires of his heart or the emotions of his physical nature, as well as for his acts. These are characterized by more or less of heinousness according to their nature and the circumstances under which they are committed. The more intense the corruption, the more guilty is the man regarded.

(b) The conscience of mankind approves these teachings of Scripture. We do not excuse men because of any state of moral corruption. The evidence of this is seen in the immediate difference which is made whenever physical compulsion or physical disease (insanity) leads to an act which otherwise would be regarded as sinful and blameworthy.

(7.) This corruption does not destroy the freedom of the will. This is the ground upon which men are held responsible by God and by human law and conscience. The condition of man is indeed such “that he cannot not sin,” but this is due to his nature, which loves sin and hates holiness, and which prefers self to God. When man sins, he does so of his own choice, freely, without compulsion.

(8.) “The inability which is thus admitted,” says Dr. Hodge, “is asserted only in reference to the things of the spirit.” It is asserted in all the confession above quoted (he has been quoting various Protestant confessions) that man since the fall has not only the liberty of choice or power of self-determination, but also is able to perform moral acts, good as well as evil. He can be kind and just, and fulfil his social duties in a manner to secure the approbation of his fellow-men. It is not meant that the states of mind in which these acts are performed, or the motives by which they are determined, are such as to meet the approbation of an infinitely holy God, but simply that these acts, as to the matter of them, are prescribed by moral law.

“Theologians, as we have seen, designate the class of acts as to which fallen man retains his ability, as ‘justitia civilis,’ ‘things external.’ And the class as to which his inability is asserted is designated as ‘the things of God,’ ‘the things of the Spirit,’ ‘things connected with salvation.’ The difference between these two classes of acts, although it may not be easy to state it in words, is universally recognized. There is an obvious difference between morality and religion; and between those religious affections of reverence and gratitude which all men more or less experience, and true piety. The difference lies in the state of mind, the motives, and the apprehension of the objects of these affections. It is the difference between holiness and mere natural feeling. What the Bible and all the Confessions of the churches of the Reformation assert is, that man, since the fall, cannot change his own heart; he cannot regenerate his soul; he cannot repent with godly sorrow or exercise that faith which is unto salvation. He cannot, in short, put forth any holy exercise, or perform any act in such a way as to merit the approbation of God. Sin cleaves to all he does, and from this dominion of sin he cannot free himself.” [Hodge’s Syst. Theol., vol. 2, pp. 263-4.]

(9.) This total corruption does not involve equality of sinfulness in all men. On the contrary, sin is increased by cherishing sinful thoughts; by indulgence in sinful habits; by throwing off the restraints of society; and is affected by circumstances of birth, education, &c. It is also true that by natural inheritance some are more prone to sin than others.

 

III. Eternal death is also the consequence of Adam’s sin.

1. Without any actual sentence to eternal death, it would follow that the present alienated and corrupted condition of mankind would be forever.

(a) Condemnation can only be removed by proof of innocence; by legal justification; or by voluntary pardon. But the justice of God forbids him to pardon sin without atonement. By the deeds of the law can no man be justified; and, above all, innocence can never be proved. Hence the Scriptures represent all men, not pardoned and justified through Christ, as condemned to everlasting death.

(b) Corruption can only be removed by a cleansing of human nature sufficient to root out all taint of sin and to restore a holy disposition and habits. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in the people of Christ. All not thus sanctified by him are left forever corrupt. The Scriptures show such to be man’s condition that he cannot cleanse himself.

Dr. Dagg says: “The Scripture representations of men’s inability are exceedingly strong. They are said to be without strength, captives, in bondage, asleep, dead, &c. The act, by which they are delivered from their natural state, is called regeneration, quickening, or giving life, renewing, resurrection, translation, creation; and it is directly ascribed to the power of God, the power that called light out of darkness, and raised up Christ from the dead.” [Dagg’s Manual of Theology, p. 171.]

The following Scriptures distinctly assert this corruption and inability: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil.” Jer. 13:23. So also Jno. 1:13; 3:3; Rom. 5:6; 7:5, 21; 8:3; 9:16 and Eph. 2:1 ,5. Such being the condition of man, it is seen to be impossible for him to be delivered by his own acts, even if he had the will to perform them. But for God’s action there would be no deliverance, even if man had the will to deliver himself.

(c) But men have not the will to be released. This is evidenced by the statements of Scripture about their love of sin, and the delight they take therein, as specially leading to the rejection of the gospel. Jno. 3:19-21.

If therefore, the doctrine of eternal death were no more than the natural continuance of the alienation and corruption of men, we see that in the absence of the means to remove these they must continue forever.

2. But this doctrine goes farther and teaches (a) the confirmation of men beyond future escape in this condition of sin and misery, and (b) its aggravation, or at least a farther development of it, which is restrained in this life, and only slightly and in a few instances indicated.

This is taught by showing: (1.) That the day of judgment has been postponed, and that men during the present life are in an intermediate state of probation. (2.) That at the appointed time the wicked shall be judged and their final doom assigned to them. (3.) That that doom shall be as eternal as the bliss of the righteous. The strongest words of the Greek language are used to express the eternity of that condition. (4.) That beyond that period there shall be no change of state nor opportunity of redemption. (5.) That the condition of punishment into which they will enter is that of the devil and his angels, which is an entirely depraved and corrupted state of bitter enmity to God, and to holy beings and things; a state without restraints, in which the soul is wholly given up to sin. The 1st chapter of Romans teaches us what the removal of such restraints will produce. (6.) Some intimation of what that state will be is given in the devil-blinded, self-hardened condition attained even in this life by the worst of men, who, in their wilful, blasphemous and high-handed opposition to God and holiness, show that they are spiritually possessed by the devil.

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887

The Wednesday Word: He Became Like Us

Hebrews 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

The Eternal Word became one of us in order to redeem us. Indeed, our verse says, “He was made like unto his brethren.” He took our nature and paid for us with His blood. If ever we were to have been saved, there was an absolute necessity for Christ to have become one of us. Consider our predicament: we were on earth and God was in heaven. We were polluted, but God was pure. We were unrighteous, but God was just. How then could He look upon us and grant us grace?

We were without hope and without God (Ephesians 2:12). We needed someone to span the immense divide between God and us and rescue us. But to do this, this rescuer would have to become low enough to reach the bottom of our pit (Genesis 18:27). He would also have to be high enough to reach the exalted glory of Yahweh (1 Timothy 6:16). But, where could we find someone low enough and high enough all at the same time? The answer was and is in Christ alone, our Great High Priest. He was and is the exclusive hope of sinners for He alone established the bridge between man and God.

He is now our great high priest and is according to our text both merciful and faithful! Mercy is an interesting word which is inseparably linked to the concept of misery. The objects of mercy are those who were in misery. Indeed, it is only the miserable who sue for mercy! In his misery, for example, Blind Bartimaeus cried out, “Jesus son of David have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47). In His mercy, our priest, the Lord Jesus destroyed the eternal misery of death and the grave for us! In mercy, He destroyed the misery of Satan’s authority over us. In mercy, He took away our sin and misery and reckoned us with His righteousness. He is our champion. Because of mercy, no believer need ever be destroyed by the misery of sin.

But not only is our high priest merciful, He is also faithful. In His faithfulness He finished His work (John 17:4). In His faithfulness, He is our present help in time of trouble! In His faithfulness, He brings all needed gifts and blessings of God to us. In His faithfulness, He understands and sympathizes with us. In His faithfulness, He helps and strengthens us. Because He is faithful, He can be trusted (1 Peter 2:6).

Don’t be mistaken, there is no access to God without a priest and there is no priest qualified to act on behalf of sinners but Jesus Christ. Unlike human priests, Jesus is perfectly holy. Unlike other priests, He understands all our temptations and struggles. Unlike other priests, He Himself is that one, perfect non-repeatable and finished offering for sin. Unlike other priests, in Him we encounter God. Unlike other priests, He will never die, for unlike other priests, He ever lives to make intercession for us. Unlike other priests, mercy and faithfulness meet together in Him. On this point, William Gouge says, “His mercifulness was the ground of His faithfulness and His faithfulness was the evidence of His mercy.

 

A Man there is, a real man,

With wounds still gaping wide,

(From which rich streams of blood once ran),

In hands and feet and side.

(Tis no wild fancy of our brains,

No metaphor we speak;

The same dear Man in heaven now reigns,

That suffered for our sake).

This wondrous Man of whom we tell

Is true Almighty God;

He bought our souls from death and hell;

The price, His own heart’s blood.

Joseph Hart

 

Jesus by His suffering and death has become our merciful and faithful high priest. He has ascended and has presented us to the Father and declared us unblameable and perfect. We are saved by His sacrifice for us, not by our sacrifice for Him. We are saved by His faithfulness to us, not by our strivings to be faithful to Him. We are saved by His merciful and faithful commitment to us, not by our failed efforts of total commitment to Him.

And that’s the Gospel Truth!

Miles McKee

 

Minister of the Gospel

The Grace Centre,

6 Quay Street, New Ross,

County Wexford, Ireland.

www.milesmckee.com 

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Papists should desist from the plea that images are the books of the unlearned

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Objection, — That images are the books of the unlearned.
Answer continued, —
3. The use of images condemned by the luxury and meretricious ornaments given to them in Popish Churches.
4. The Church must be trained in true piety by another method.

7. Let Papists, then, if they have any sense of shame, henceforth desist from the futile plea, that images are the books of the unlearned — a plea so plainly refuted by innumerable passages of Scripture. And yet were I to admit the plea, it would not be a valid defense of their peculiar idols. It is well known what kind of monsters they obtrude upon us as divine. For what are the pictures or statues to which they append the names of saints, but exhibitions of the most shameless luxury or obscenity? Were any one to dress himself after their model, he would deserve the pillory. Indeed, brothels exhibit their inmates more chastely and modestly dressed than churches do images intended to represent virgins. The dress of the martyrs is in no respect more becoming. Let Papists then have some little regard to decency in decking their idols, if they would give the least plausibility to the false allegation, that they are books of some kind of sanctity. But even then we shall answer, that this is not the method in which the Christian people should be taught in sacred places. Very different from these follies is the doctrine in which God would have them to be there instructed. His injunction is, that the doctrine common to all should there be set forth by the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments, — a doctrine to which little heed can be given by those whose eyes are carried too and fro gazing at idols. And who are the unlearned, whose rudeness admits of being taught by images only? Just those whom the Lord acknowledges for his disciples; those whom he honors with a revelation of his celestial philosophy, and desires to be trained in the saving mysteries of his kingdom. I confess, indeed, as matters now are, there are not a few in the present day who cannot want such books. But, I ask, whence this stupidity, but just because they are defrauded of the only doctrine which was fit to instruct them? The simple reason why those who had the charge of churches resigned the office of teaching to idols was, because they themselves were dumb. Paul declares, that by the true preaching of the gospel Christ is portrayed and in a manner crucified before our eyes, (Galatians 3:1.) Of what use, then, were the erection in churches of so many crosses of wood and stone, silver and gold, if this doctrine were faithfully and honestly preached, viz., Christ died that he might bear our curse upon the tree, that he might expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, wash them in his blood, and, in short, reconcile us to God the Father? From this one doctrine the people would learn more than from a thousand crosses of wood and stone. As for crosses of gold and silver, it may be true that the avaricious give their eyes and minds to them more eagerly than to any heavenly instructor.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 11-Henry Beveridge Translation

The Regulative Principle of the Church 13: Its Specific Application (Part 2)

In my previous blog post I dealt with the application of the regulative principle to the government of the church. Here we take up a second important application.

II. For the Tasks of the Church

I remind you again that fundamental to the regulative principle of the church was its peculiar identity as the house or temple of God. The church is subject to the special regulation of the Word of God precisely because of its unique identity in human society. Neither the family, nor even the state is subject to anything akin to the regulative principle. The unique identity of the church directly leads us to the unique identity of its functions or tasks in the world.

Now it is not my purpose to expound in detail here the subject of the tasks of the church. Neither is it my purpose to deal in any kind of thorough way with the sphere sovereignty of the church, the family, and the state as the three major institutions which by divine ordination compose and regulate human society. I do think it is obvious to anyone with an appreciation of the development of the doctrine of sphere sovereignty in the Reformed tradition that God has given distinct tasks to the family, the state, and the church. This is both the general teaching of the Bible and the plain implication of the regulative principle itself. This suggests to me three plain and closely related duties of the church.

 
Read the entire article here.

Appendix on James 5:14-16 Pt 2-Reformers and Puritans

Arthur PinkSecond, the position generally taken by the Reformers and Puritans, was, that this anointing the sick with oil was not designed as a sacrament, they being but two in number: baptism and the Lord’s supper. They pointed out that so far from this being a standing rite, the apostles themselves seldom used oil in the healing of the sick: they wrought cures by a touch (Acts 3:7), by their shadow (Acts 5:15), by handkerchiefs (Acts 19:12), by laying on of hands (Acts 28:8), by word of mouth (Acts 9:34).
Nor does it appear that they were permitted to employ this gift indiscriminately, no not even among brethren in Christ dear to them, or why should Paul leave Trophimus at Miletum sick (2 Timothy 4:20) or sorrow so much over the illness of Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:27)? In this too God exercised His sovereignty. But what is more to the point, this supernatural endowment was only of brief duration:

“But that grace of healing has disappeared, like all other miraculous powers, which the Lord was pleased to exhibit for a time, that He might render the power of the Gospel, which was then new, the object of admiration forever” (Calvin).

A list of the “charismata” or supernatural gifts which obtained during th apostolic period is found in 1 Corinthians 12:

“to another faith, by the same Spirit; to another the gift of healing, by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” (vv. 9, 10.).

They were designed chiefly for the authenticating of Christianity and to confirm it in heathen countries. Their purpose, then, was only a temporary one, and as soon as the canon of Scripture was closed they were withdrawn. As 1 Corinthians 13 plainly intimates “whether there be prophecies (inspired messages from God) they shall fail (to be given any more); whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be (supernatural) knowledge, it shall vanish away” (v. 8). It was the view of Matthew Henry, Thomas Manton, John Owen, and in fact nearly all of the Puritan divines, that James 5:14, 15 refers to the exercise of one of those supernatural gifts which the church enjoyed only in the first century.

Among the leading arguments advanced in support of this contention are the following. First, the “anointing with oil” clearly appears to look back to Mark 6:13 where we are told of the twelve, they “anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.” Second, the positive promise of healing, verse 15, seems to be an unconditional and general one, as though no exceptions, no cases of failure, were to be looked for. Third, “healing” was certainly one of the miraculous gifts specified in 1 Corinthians 12. Moreover, it hardly seems likely that the “faith” here mentioned is an ordinary one: though whether it differed in kind or only in degree is not easy to determine. There was the “faith of miracles”—either to work them or the expectation of them on the part of those who were the beneficiaries, as is clear from Matthew 21:24; Mark 11:24; 1 Corinthians 13:2. The “anointing with oil’’ after the praying over the sick is regarded as a seal or pledge of the certainty of healing or recovery.

On the other side, we find such a deeply-taught man and so able an expositor as Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) insisting on the contrary. He pointed out, first, that James 5:14 is quite different from Mark 6:13, for here the anointing with oil is joined with prayer, whereas prayer is not mentioned there, but only the miraculous gift. Second, the ones to be sent for were not specified as men endowed with the gift of healing, but the “elders,” and there is nothing to show that all of them possessed that gift. The “elders” were standing officers who were to continue. Third, the ones to be healed are the “sick” or infirm, but extraordinary healing would have extended further—to the blind, the deaf and dumb, and would have reached to unbelievers instead of being restricted to church members: cf. 1 Corinthians 14:22. Fourth, the means commanded: oil and prayer on all such occasions, whereas the extraordinary gift of healing was not so confined, but was frequently effected without any means at all, by mere
word of mouth.

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?